Daniel Czech, a third-year undergraduate student from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, became the second recipient of the Aleks Brumby Summer Research Scholarship.
The $1500 scholarship supports the student ranked highest in academic merit and research potential during a 10-week research internship at QBI.
Daniel undertook his research project in the computational neuroscience laboratory under the supervision of Professor Geoffrey Goodhill.
As a Mechatronic Engineering student, Daniel’s project “Neural coding in the visual system” linked mathematics and neuroscience – two of his key interests.
As part of Daniel’s project, zebrafish were injected with a chemical that lights up when neurons are active.
Zebrafish are a particularly useful model organism to study the brain in this manner, as their skin is transparent at the larval stage.
The fish were shown a series of spots in different positions on a screen while their brain was videoed.
Once recorded, the videos need to be analysed to be able to decode where the fish was looking at when the neurons fire in a particular pattern.
Daniel successfully designed a computer program that allows for automatic detection, making the process more objective, easier and quicker for researchers in the laboratory.
Although Daniel is uncertain what he will do after his undergraduate degree, he says that his experience at QBI over the summer was “exceptionally interesting”, and that he is seriously considering applying to study further at QBI.